By Tim Glon
ALMA, Mich. — The Ohio Northern men's basketball team opened the Rich Bensman era with a hard-fought 80-72 loss in its season opener at No. 14-ranked Alma (Mich.) Tuesday night at Smith Arena.
Junior Nate Burger (Dayton/Alter) led four ONU players in double figures in scoring with 18 points.
The Scots (1-0 overall), who advanced to the NCAA III Tournament Elite 8 last season, were led by Trevor Gernaat with 19 points.
Northern went on a 12-0 run late in the first half to turn a 27-26 advantage into a 39-26 lead with 2:08 left in the period.
ONU led 41-30 at intermission.
The Scots chipped away at the Polar Bear lead in the second half, pulling within 52-50 with 10:14 left in the game before eventually tying the game at 59-all with 6:45 left to play.
A 3-pointer by Burger pulled Ohio Northern within 63-62 with 3:43 to go.
But back-to-back 3-pointers by Alma extended the lead to 69-62 with 2:07 remaining.
The Scots then made 11-of-14 free throws in the final 1:32 to ice the game.
Ohio Northern made 27-of-60 field goals for 45.0 percent and made 11-of-31 3-pointers for 35.5 percent.
Alma made 23-of-54 of its field goal attempts for 42.6 percent and was 6-of-18 from beyond the arc for 33.3 percent.
The Scots were 28-of-35 from the foul line for 80.0 percent, while the Polar Bears were just 7-of-11 for 63.6 percent.
AC out-rebounded ONU 38-30.
The Polar Bears will return to action Saturday when they open the home portion of their schedule at 3 pm against Denison at the ONU Sports Center.